Freedom fighters under pressure | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 23, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:14 AM, September 23, 2020

Freedom fighters under pressure

Goons in Banshkhali swooped on them several times for protesting fellow fighter’s burial without guard of honour

Freedom fighters in Chattogram's Banshkhali upazila have come under several attacks in recent times after they protested the authorities' failure to give a guard of honour to one of their fellow freedom fighters before his burial in late July.

Ali Ashraf, 87, former labour affairs secretary of Banshkhali Awami League, died on 26 July after suffering from age-old complications at Chattogram Medical College Hospital.

He was the elder brother of Moulvi Syed Ahmed, the founding president of Chattogram Jubo League.

Ashraf's family, as well as freedom fighters' organisations in Chattogram, informed the Banshkhali upazila administration to organise a guard of honour before his namaz-e-janaza which was held on the morning of July 27.

But a team from the upazila administration reached there an hour after the burial, ruffling the feathers of the freedom fighters in the upazila.

Jahir Uddin Mohammed Babar, the younger son of Ashraf Ali, said, "The time of the janaza was fixed at 11:00am, but an assistant commissioner (land) of Banshkhali upazila administration reached the spot at 12:00pm."

Several freedom fighters have alleged that Mostafizur Rahman, ruling party lawmaker from Chattogram-16, manipulated the local administration to turn their back on the guard of honour event.

When reporters asked MP Mostafizur about the incident, he said no battle took place in Banshkhali during the Liberation War and that Ali Ashraf was nobody of the upazila Awami League, further infuriating the freedom fighters.

Freedom fighters in Chattogram took to the streets following the comment and have been subjected to several attacks since then.

The first attack took place on August 3 when the family of Moulvi Syed organised a programme at Puichhari Bazar in Banshkhali to condemn the lawmaker's comment.

At least 10 people, including several local journalists, were injured in the attack.

Khursed Alam Pasha, former general secretary of Banshkhali upazila Chatro League who was also wounded in the attack, told this newspaper that some notorious robbers and murderers of the upazila were among the attackers.

The second attack took place on August 5 when around 500 freedom fighters gathered in Jaldi Pourasabha area in the upazila to protest the authorities' failure to provide Ashraf with a guard of honour as well as the comment of Mostafizur.

A group of miscreants wielding hockey sticks swooped on the freedom fighters to disperse the gathering, injuring at least six people.

Freedom fighters were assaulted yet again on August 24 when they organised a protest rally in front of Chattogram Press Club.

At least 20 people, including eight freedom fighters, were injured in the attack.

Police arrested four people, including Mostafizur's assistant personal secretary AKM Mostafizur Rahman Russel, in connection with the third attack.

Muzaffor Ahmed, commander of Chattogram Muktijoddha Sangsad, told this newspaper that Ashraf Ali was a well-known freedom fighter.

"He organised other freedom fighters and directly took part in the warfare. How dare local lawmaker Mostafizur Rahman deprive him of a guard of honour," he said.

"This MP has shown grudge against freedom fighters since his election of lawmaker. He even did not allow any freedom fighter to deliver speech in a programme organised to commemorate the tragic event of 15 August", Muzaffor said.

He said they came to learn that the lawmaker confused the local administration about the funeral time.

Mahbubul Alam Hanif, joint secretary of the Awami League, told The Daily Star that they have seen the reports of attacks on freedom fighters.

"Police have arrested few people and are looking into the matter to find out who was behind the attacks", he said, adding that they would also take action if anyone from their party is found involved.

"Apart from this, we will take action from our party if anyone from the party is found involved in the attack," he added.

Asked if the Awami League would take any action if the local lawmaker is found involved in the attack, he said there are some constitutional obligations to take action against a lawmaker.

If the investigation finds him guilty, legal proceedings will be taken in line with the constitution, he said.

Contacted, Mohammad Atikur Rahman, assistant commissioner (land) of Banshkhali upazila, who was late to reach the janaza venue, refused to comment on the matter.

He rather advised this correspondent to talk to upazila nirbahi officer about it.

Momena Akther, upazila nirbahi officer of Banshkhali, however, said she was on another assignment. Assistant Commissioner (land) was in charge of the guard of honour.

"Incidentally, he got late on his way to conduct the guard of honour. The family was informed about it. The freedom fighter was buried by the time he reached the spot. As the Eid-ul-Adha was imminent, there were cattle markets along the road delaying him to reach the spot", she explained.

She denied the lawmaker's involvement in this incident saying freedom fighters deserve the supreme dignity from the state. So, they would never give in to such a conspiracy to deprive a freedom fighter of his due honour.

This correspondent called Mostafizur several times but he didn't receive the phone. He also didn't reply to the text message sent by this correspondent.

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